Mario J. Molina, Ph.D.

Title
Deceased
Award year
1990

Research

Project Details

Mario felt strongly that studying human-induced global changes required an integrated, interdisciplinary approach, which wasn’t possible under the conventional research grant system. His Pew fellowship provided the opportunity to pursue this interdisciplinary approach, carry out collaborative investigations, and broaden his understanding of the atmosphere-biosphere interface. Specifically, Mario undertook a project to develop a novel technique for analyzing and monitoring atmospheric trace species. He also co-wrote a document on sustainable development for the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Biography

Mario Molina was a world leader in developing our scientific understanding of the chemistry of the stratospheric ozone layer and its susceptibility to anthropogenic perturbations. His research spanned the fields of atmospheric chemistry, chemical kinetics, and photochemistry and focused on the potential implications of changes in the chemical composition of the Earth's atmosphere. Molina’s work also helped explain the role of aerosols and clouds in the changing chemistry of the global atmosphere.

In 1995, Molina shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with two co-investigators for their work demonstrating the link between man-made chlorofluocarbons in the atmosphere and damage to the ozone layer. His studies predicting an "ozone hole" laid the groundwork for its discovery in 1985 over the South Pole. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Molina received numerous honors during his career, including the U.N. Environment Programme Sasakawa Prize, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2013. Molina also served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama.

Molina’s research involved laboratory and modeling studies of chemical processes occurring on cloud particles, with an emphasis on stratospheric ozone depletion and pollution of the troposphere from combustion sources. His work included understanding elementary gas-phase reactions as well as measuring chemical kinetics and photochemical parameters of heterogeneous chemistry of atmospheric importance. The species under investigation are critical to the halogen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur cycles and the photo-oxidation of hydrocarbons. Molina was particularly interested in predicting the extent of ozone depletion at northern latitudes. He also led a multidisciplinary project that assessed air pollution in megacities.

In recent years, Molina had divided his time between the University of California San Diego and the Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment in Mexico City. 

Mario Molina died on Oct. 7, 2020. He was 77.

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